The Relevance of Consent in the Digital Age: A Consideration of Its Origins and Its Fit for Digital Application

The Relevance of Consent in the Digital Age: A Consideration of Its Origins and Its Fit for Digital Application
Book Chapter
Marietjie Botes
Security and Trust Management, 4 April 2023 [Springer]
Consent originated in the 1800s to protect incarcerated prisoners against unwanted medical treatment and was later formalized in the Nuremberg Code in response to harmful medical experiments that was conducted on prisoners of war during World War II. These co-called ethical principles was later reinforced and extended to protect the control and decisional power that individuals need over their bodies in The Belmont Report. Today these ethical consent principles are codified in laws such as the GDPR. Considering that these ethical consent principles were developed around biomedical treatments and experiments, it begs the question whether these same principles are still relevant and can be successfully applied in a digital environment. This paper critically considers the application of the original ethical consent principles in the digital age and highlights certain critical challenges. The aim of the paper is to draw attention to the fact that the concept of consent and whether it can still be applied ethically in a digital environment must be considered first before digital consent models or consent automation tools are developed, because such a consideration will have a critical impact on how these tools must be developed to remain, not only legal, but also ethical and subsequently sustainable.

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